- No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron Royal Air Force during the Second World War -
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No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron Royal Air Force
No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron was formed in 1917 and used in wireless telegraphy training. It was re-designated a fighter squadron equipped with Dolphine in 1918 and disbanded in 1919. In 1941 No. 421 Reconnaissance Flight was renumbered No. 91 and became a single-seat fighter squadron (Spitfires) undertaking shipping patrols, weather reconnaissance and air-sea rescue sweeps until new ASR squadrons took over these duties.
In April 1943, the Squadron moved to the Midlands converting to Spitfire XIIs, returning south the next month to take part in sweeps over northern France. In March 1944 the Squadron joined Second TAF and flew armed reconnaissance sweeps over the approaches to the invasion area in Normandy. Soon after D-Day?, flying-bomb attacks began and No.91 was engaged in destroying these until August 1944. In September it began flying long-range escort missions for day bombers and in April 1945, moved to East Anglia to carry out armed reconnaissance missions over the Netherlands and searches for midget submarines off the coast of Holland and Belgium. No. 91 was based at Duxford after the end of the war.
Airfields No. 91 Squadron flew from:
- RAF Hawkinge, Kent from 11th January 1941 (formed from No. 421 Flight, Spitfire IIa)
- RAF Lympne, Kent from 2nd October 1942
- RAF Hawkinge from 9th October 1942
- RAF Lympne from 23rd November 1942
- RAF Hawkinge from 11th January 1942
- RAF Honiley, Warwickshire from 20th April 1943 (Spitfire XII)
- RAF Wittering, Northamptonshire from 9th May 1943
- RAF Hawkinge from 21st May 1943
- RAF Westhampnett, Sussex from 28th June 1943
- RAF Tangmere, Sussex from 4th October 1943
- RAF Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire from 8th February 1944
- RAF Tangmere from 20th February 1944
- RAF Castle Camps, Essex from 29th February 1944
- RAF Drem, EaSt? Lothian from 17th March 1944 (Spitfire XIV)
- RAF West Malling, Kent from 23rd April 1944
- RAF Deanland, Sussex from 21st July 1944 (Spitfire IXb)
- RAF Biggin Hill, Kent from 7th October 1944
- RAF Manston, Kent from 29th October 1944 (Spitfire F21)
- RAF Ludham, Norfolk from 8th April 1945 (moved 14th July 1945)
21st June 1943 Reorganisation
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Those known to have served with
No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron Royal Air Force
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
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Flt Sgt. Sayer 91 Sqd. (d.28th Mar 1944)I am doing some research into 91 squadron and believe they were stationed at Drem on the 8th March 1944 (flying from Castle Camps) arriving at 13.45. They left Drem for West Malling on the 23rd April. I think they were grounded due to the weather for a while but on the 12th March Flt Sgt Sayer crashed and was killed. On the 28th March 1944 15 members of the squadron went to Edinburgh to visit factories.Peter Williams
S/Ldr Johannes Jacobus "Chris" le Roux Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Bars 602 Sdn (d.29th Aug 1944)Springbok Fighter Ace: Squadron Leader Chris Le Roux, RAF
South Africa was to produce a string of famous RAF airmen during World War II, names that echo immortal among the great pantheon of the “Boys in Blue”, Group-Captain Adolf “Sailor” Malan, of No 74 Squadron; Marmaduke “Pat” Pattle, who fought so valiantly in the embattled skies above Greece; Group-Captain Petrus Hendrik Hugo, from Pampoenpoort, in the Cape Province, who led 322 Wing during the “Operation Torch” landings in North Africa in November 1942; the Rhodesian-born Squadron-Leader Caesar Hull, who was to die while leading No 43 “Fighting Cocks” Squadron during the Battle of Britain; Squadron-Leader Albert Gerald Lewis, from Kimberley, who served so gallantly with No 249 Squadron during the Battle of Britain , winning the DFC and Bar during the war; Wing-Commander Alexander Coultate Rabagliati, from Durban, who was to be killed while leading a “Typhoon” wing in July 1943, and of course, Squadron Leader J.J. “Chris” Le Roux, who was to serve with great distinction in France, over the skies of England, and in North Africa, and sadly to lose his life in September 1944, when but 26 years-of-age.
Johannes Jacobus “Chris” Le Roux was born in Heidelberg, in the Transvaal, South Africa, in 1920, and received part of his education at Durban High School. He subsequently joined the Royal Air Force, and served with No 73 Squadron in France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF), where he too part in the latter stages of the debacle, the squadron withdrawing from France on the 17 June 1940. En route to England tragedy was to strike the squadron as roughly 40 ground crew were to perish with HMS Lancastria, when the ship was sunk off the coast of St Nazaire. Le Roux was then to partake in the Battle of Britain, opening his account, and having to bale out of a blazing Hurricane. Le Roux is said to have been shot down on no-less than 12 occasions during 1940, which is incredibly remarkable, and if so, it’s a wonder he survived as long as he did.
In 1941 he was posted to No 91 “Nigeria” Squadron (squadron marking: “DL“), formed in January that year from No 421 Flight, and operating from RAF Hawkinge in Kent, equipped with Spitfires. He was promoted Flying-Officer on the 28 February of that year, and during the next fifteen months was to carry out an incredible 200 operational sorties, which included shipping reconnaissances, strafing raids on enemy aerodromes and ground installations, escort missions and fighter sweeps, and was to supplement his tally with a Bf 109 E shot down on the 17 August 1941, and another on the 29th, claiming two Bf 109 Fs on the 4 September, and another on the 28 October, followed by yet another Bf 109 on the 11 November. Le Roux was subsequently rested, but returned to the squadron later in 1942 as a flight commander (having been promoted Flight Lieutenant on the 28 February 1942) , and accounted for two Fw 190s on the 31 October of that year. He was also to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and Two “Bars” in October 1941, December 1942 and in 1943 respectively, two of the citations appearing below:
DFC, London Gazette, 4 October 1941, Issue 35312, page 6034: “Acting Flight Lieutenant Jacobus Johannes Le Roux (42240), No. 91 Squadron. This officer has carried out over 200 operational sorties which have included shipping reconnaissances, during which much valuable information has been obtained, and numerous attacks on shipping and enemy aerodromes in the face of heavy enemy fire. Flight Lieutenant Le Roux has destroyed 3 hostile aircraft in combat and at least 1 on the ground.”
First Bar to DFC, London Gazette, 8 December 1942 (Issue 35819, page 5391): “Flight Lieutenant Jacobus Johannes LE Roux, D.F.C. (42240), No. 91 Squadron. Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross this officer has destroyed a further five enemy aircraft. In addition to his air victories he has attacked shipping and targets on the ground with considerable success. At all times Flight Lieutenant Le Roux has displayed a fine fighting spirit.”
Posted to the famous No 111 (Treble One) Squadron (squadron marking: “JU“), Le Roux served with the squadron during “Operation Torch” in Morocco and Algeria (in what was then termed French North Africa) against the “Vichy French” and during what was a difficult period of service for the squadron nevertheless destroyed two Fw 190s and a Bf 109, while damaging another two Bf 109s, and also later commanded the squadron. Whilst he was commanding the squadron he found a tortoise, which was soon adopted as the squadron’s mascot. For many months the tortoise walked around, gaily decorated with the name “Oscar” painted on one end of its shell, and “111” daubed on the other side, and its rear end displaying a red, white and blue roundel.
It was in July 1944 that Le Roux took command of No 602 “City of Glasgow” Squadron (squadron marking: “LO“), beginning his third tour, the squadron having just moved to France, following the D-Day Landings in June, and were equipped with Spitfire Mk 9s. 602 operated from advance airfields in Normandy, following the Army's advance into Belgium until September, thereafter returning to the UK. In the first 11 days of his command he was to account for approximately seven enemy fighters destroyed, the last two of which were credited to him without Le Roux having to fire a shot. What seems to have transpired is that the first of the German fighters “got on to his tail, and when he turned tightly attempted to follow unsuccessfully and spun into the ground, the second, one of 12 which chased him for 20 minutes when he was out of ammunition and almost out of petrol, was accounted for in a similar fashion.”
On another occasion during that same week, Le Roux’s aircraft was “so badly damaged by flak after he had strafed a convoy of vehicles that it looked impossible for anyone to have flown it, but he made base successfully”. To the airmen of 602 Squadron he was known simply as the “Boss” , “in the air a cool, calculating tactician and disciplinarian, on the ground his personality shone out in the social life of a very happy team”, and his “keen vision frequently enabled him to shoot down aircraft which other members of the squadron flying with him had not even seen” (an attribute he shared with fellow South African RAF air-aces “Sailor” Malan and “Pat” Pattle.
All the while his tally had grown, destroying a Fw 190 on the 15 July and a Bf 109, and on the 17th destroyed two Bf 109s while damaging another two, and by September 1944 had accrued an official tally of 23½ enemy planes accounted for. It was on the 17th that Le Roux and No 602 Squadron were to engage a German staff car near the village of Sainte Foy de Montgomerie, and unbeknownst to them one of the occupants was none other than Field Marshal Erwin “The Desert Fox” Rommel, the squadron strafing the car which subsequently overturned, catapulting Rommel into a ditch, sustaining a fractured skull. This incredible episode has at times been attributed to Le Roux, but other RAF officers have also been credited with the wounding of the wily “Desert Fox”, and it remains a point of debate.
Then, on the 19 September 1944, this experienced and incredibly skilful combat pilot was not to die in the heat of frenzied battle but simply in an “everyday” aircraft accident, his plane running into bad weather and crashing in the channel near the headland of Selsey Bill (West Sussex) during what was apparently a routine flight. It really is one of the tragedies of war that so many brilliant veteran pilots do not succumb in the heady throes of aerial combat, but sadly during some “routine” or mundane flight, most often due in part to the whimsical and capricious nature of weather. As the Reuter’s correspondent with the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) was to write: “ It is the irony of war that this 26-year-old victor of air battles from 1940 onwards should have been killed making a routine flight.” Le Roux was to leave behind an English wife and two children, the family resident at the time in Shropshire.
Squadron-Leader J.J. “Chris” Le Roux was a very popular commanding officer and was well known for his ebullience and witticisms, and during the course of the war was to see combat in France, during the Battle of Britain and in North Africa, all the while displaying his brilliant and marked abilities, and must surely rank as one of the finest RAF fighter-aces and leaders of the Second World War. His sorrowful death on that murky September day of 1944 was not only a tragic loss to the RAF, but to South Africa as well. In combat he was well-nigh invincible and the fact that he was to lose his life accidentally, after having survived combat operations for so long, makes the tragedy of his loss all the greater.
Of the top five South African air-aces of World War II, no-less than four had served during the Battle of Britain (with the RAF), namely “Sailor” Malan, A.G. Lewis, J.J. Le Roux, and P.H. Hugo.
[Author's Note: Most sources give le Roux's year of birth as 1920, but at least one proffers the year 1918, while again, most sources concur as to his date of death being the 19 September 1944, but the CWGC states that he was killed on the 29 August 1944. Squadron-Leader J.J. "Chris" Le Roux is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 200]
[Sources: “South Africa” Newspaper, October 1944; Fighter Aces of the RAF, 1939-1945, ECR Baker, published 1974, le Roux entry, page 195; Article in the “Commando” Magazine, October 1964, page 31, author unknown; Aces High, Christopher Shores, published 1983; Source Book of the RAF, Ken Delve; London Gazette Website,www.londongazette.co.uk] and, a second article, from source: : Military History Journal Vol 1 No 4 - June 1969 SOUTH AFRICAN AIR ACES OF WORLD WAR II by Squadron Leader D.P. Tidy No.3 Squadron Leader J.J. le Roux, DFC and two Bars
Johannes Jacobus le Roux joined No. 73 Squadron, Royal Air Force as a twenty-year old in 1940, when that squadron was part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF in France during that strange period of World War II known to the French as "la drole de guerre". It was a war of singularly little major action up to May, 1940, and the Americans called it the "phoney war", but the epithet was hardly justified. One of the contestants, Britain, was saving and building up her strength for the later stages; Germany, the other, was about to launch an all-out attack which was to culminate in the evacuation on from Dunkirk of the British and French forces. It was to this odd war that No.73 Squadron flew their Hurricanes in 1939, and which young Chris le Roux entered when he joined the squadron in 1940.
When the Luftwaffe opened the assault in May, the AASF and the RAF Component (with which Dutch Hugo, the subject of our next profile, was flying) escaped lightly. Soon, however, Chris (as he had been known throughout his service in the RAF) le Roux was in the thick of the fighting, for the AASF fighters had to cover the evacuation of the ground staff, and the three remaining Bnitish divisions. For the defence of Nantes and St. Nazaire there were but three squadrons, Nos.1, 73 and 242) all equipped with Hurricanes; yet in spite of this sparse air cover the evacuation of the troops was entirely successful. The Luftwaffe dropped bombs by day and mines by night but achieved remarkably little. Denis Richards relates in "The Fight at Odds" (HMSO) that only off St. Nazaire, where German bombers sank the Lancastria with 5,000 troops aboard, was there a major disaster. In this case the enemy made clever use of cloud cover to elude the patrolling Hurricanes. By the afternoon of 18th June, 1940, the ground forces had made good their escape, and the fighters, most of which had flown six sorties on the previous day, were free to depart. After No. 73 Squadron had flown the final patrol, the last Hurricanes left Nantes for Tangmere and the mechanics set fire to the unserviceable machines.
I can find no details of Chris le Roux's combats in France, and would be most grateful if any of our readers can tell me if his Log Book survived, and if so, where it is now, or if any of his relatives survive and can help with details of his life, for he is one of the least-known aces of the war. E. C. R. Baker in "Fighter Aces of the RAF" ( William Kimber states that Chris was shot down twelve times in 1940 "in France and the Battle of Britain" but I presume that these escapes by parachute all took place over France as I can find no details of his having fought over Britain in 1940.
This lack of information for 1940 makes his score in the air uncertain, as although Baker credits him with 23.5, and Chris Shores and Clive Williams follow this in "Aces High" (Neville Spearman), neither Chris Shores nor I are by any means certain that all the victories were in the air. He credits Chris le Roux with 8 victories with No. 91 Squadron in 1941, 4 with No. 111 in North Africa, and with No. 602 in 1944, making a total of 17. He follows Baker's total of 23.5 very doubtfully, as it is made up of 9 with No. 91, 5 with No.111 and 5 with No. 602, which makes 19 and them Baker writes that Chris got "several on the ground" while with No. 91. Chris Shores and I both think that some of these may be included in Baker's total of 23.5. However, if this is so, it would mean that although it appears that Chris le Roux baled out 12 times in 1940, that he failed to score himself. This seems most unlikely, and if anyone can help to put the record straight I should be most grateful to hear from him (or her), as it could well be that Chris le Roux's score was more than 23,5.
The first victory I can trace for him is as a Flying Officer in Spitfires with No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron, which had been formed from No.421 Flight after this mixed bag of Hurricanes and Spitfires had done very useful work (meteorological observation climbs, coastal gunnery, spotting and security patrols) in 1940. By January, 1941, the whole squadron was equipped with Spitfires, and Chris le Roux shot down a Me 109E on 17th August, 1941, followed by another on the 29th. Before he was rested from operations he claimed four l09Fs; one on 4th September, 1941, one on 28th October and another on 11th November.
On his return to operations, the next I can trace of him is as a Flight Commander with No. 91 Squadron, when he destroyed two FW 109s on 31st October, 1942. He had by this time received both the DFC and Bar but the citations are no help in identifying his victories. He had flown more than 200 operational sorties including shipping reconnaissances, ground installation attacks, escort missions, and fighter sweeps.
At the end of 1942 he was posted to No.111 Squadron in No.324 Wing in North Africa, and became Commanding Officer of that famous squadron (known as the "Black Arrows" with their aerobatic teams of later years) in 1943. On 14th November, 1942, No.111 Squadron flew into Bone airfield, and were immediately attacked by enemy aircraft, and suffered severe casualties to both aircraft and ground crews. Christmas found the squadron at Souk el Arba, and the Operations Record Book recorded "a pretty miserable day, raining all the time and bogging the aircraft. The pilots spent the day trying to get them out and came back at dusk dead to the world." Efforts were made to lay a steel netting mat, but the long thin lines of communication meant that for a single runway, two days capacity for the entire railway system would be needed. Even when enough steel matting could be found it tended to sink into the mud and disappear. Despite these difficulties, Chris le Roux damaged a Me 109 on 14th January and another on the 19th, and destroyed yet another on the same day. On 3rd April he shot down a FW 190, and on 23rd another FW 190 and a Me 109. By May the German and Italian fighters had been swept from the Tunisian skies, the 7th Armoured Division (the famous Desert Rats) occupied Tunis and the Americans took Bizerta. The Germans finally capitulated on 12th and 13th May and the war in Africa was over. The experience gained was to serve the air forces well in Europe.
The next I can find about Chris le Roux is his having taken command of No.602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron in France in the summer of 1944, with Spitfire 9s, having received a second Bar to his DFC for his North African successes. He led this squadron through the fierce fighting of the invasion of Normandy, and moved it to French soil on 25th June. He shot down a FW 190 and a Me 109 on 15th July, 1944, and another FW 190 on 16th. On 17th he destroyed two Me 109s and damaged two more, and the squadron nearly succeeded in killing the German Commanding General, Erwin Rommel. Diving on his car, they caused it to overturn near the village of Sainte Foy de Montgomerie, and Rommel was flung into a ditch and sustained a fractured skull. He survived, only to kill himself on 14th October, rather than stand trial for complicity in the plot against Hitler of 20th July. By 25th August, 1944, Paris had been liberated, and on 3rd September, five years after the outbreak of war, the Welsh Guards entered Brussels. Chris le Roux did not live to enjoy the fruits of the victory. Like so many gallant and brilliant fighter pilots, he was destroyed, not by enemy gunfire, but by an aircraft accident, on 19th September, 1944.
Squadron Leader J. J. le Roux, DFC His cheerful personality and good looks had made him one of South Africa's most popular fighter pilots, and he was mourned by all who had known him. The No.111 Squadron Operations Record Book contains a magnificent "line" which remains as a fitting memory of one as young, as gallant and as gay as Chris le Roux. It quotes him as relating the story of his having made a good landing in very dirty weather and the mud described earlier, and finishes up: "I didn't realise I was down until I heard the ground crew clapping!" He was a very worthy member of "the gayest company who ever fired their guns in anger."David R. Bennett
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